The Willow Project: Drilling for Oil or Threatening Wildlife?


Eden Garrett, Staff Writer

On March 13th, 2023, the Biden Administration approved the controversial Willow Project. This project is designed to drill millions of barrels of oil from Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, located at the northern tip of the state. Led by ConocoPhillips, this $8 billion project will produce roughly 600 million oil barrels in the span of 30 years. This project has been formally approved despite public opposition and extremely detrimental environmental impacts to wildlife in Alaska.

By drilling this substantial amount of oil, about 280 metric tons of carbon will be released into the atmosphere. According to the New York Times, that’s around “9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution, equal to adding nearly two million cars to the roads each year”. Nevertheless, Biden strongly encouraged the approval of this project in order for the federal government to earn up to $17 billion and to create around 2,500 jobs as a result. Labor unions, Alaskan Indigenous groups, building traders, and Mary Peltola––Alaska’s first Native Representative––are all those who were in favor of the approval of the Willow Project. The Biden Administration has worked to portray the Willow Project to be beneficial to the United States in various ways. However, what has failed to be mentioned are the negative aspects of this project, including the harm that will be caused to the native species in the Arctic.

Home to polar bears, caribou, penguins, bears, whales, and numerous kinds of migratory birds and other species, the Arctic Circle has always been a safe environment for these animals to live in. So why would anyone want to ruin the precious wildlife in the Northern slope of Alaska? Many of these animals are already endangered species, including polar bears and whales, and the approval of the Willow Project will only continue to harm these rare species. The constant emission of carbon pollution into Earth’s atmosphere will continue to harm the animals living both in bodies of water and above ground. In a recent article on, lawyers involved in the approval of the Willow Project wrote that federal agencies “failed to consider how the increased greenhouse gas emissions from Willow may affect the survival and recovery of these ice-dependent species or their critical habitat.” The more air pollution generated from the oil drilling, the more glaciers will continue to melt. As a result, this process will contribute to the eventual extinction of these endangered species.

Personally, hearing about the effects the Willow Project will have on our environment was truly devastating. Animals including penguins, polar bears, caribou, etc. have already suffered enough from the endless forms of pollution that society contributes to. As if this wasn’t enough, this new oil drilling project in the Arctic Circle will only harm the wildlife and the environment even more. Therefore, many advocates against the Willow Project have spoken out against this cruel act, and will continue to do so. In a recent article, referenced that “environmental and indigenous groups have filed two separate lawsuits challenging the Willow Project on Alaska’s North Slope after the Biden Administration approved the oil drilling venture on Monday.” In addition to these lawsuits, a petition spread worldwide through social media to help stop the Biden Administration before they approved this project. Across various communities around the globe, people are advocating for environmental change through protests. Although the oil drilling in Alaska will allow the United States to gain more oil for the country to operate, this project will only continue to threaten our ecosystem. If you are able to help take action through petitions, protests, or sharing this news with your peers, we can move one step closer to saving our environment!